Remote Hiring

The ability to hire remote employees gives your organization a major competitive advantage. You have access to top talent all over the world (or at least in specific time zones where it makes sense) instead of being limited to, say, a 20-mile radius around your office.

During the pandemic, hiring remote employees has also become a necessity if you want to grow your business.

However, many companies think they have to reinvent their hiring processes when they switch to hiring remotely. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A lot of the best practices for hiring in person still work; you just need to make a few adjustments.

1. Get Clear on the Role You Need to Hire for

This almost seems too obvious to include, but before you invest any time in the remote hiring process, it’s important to get clear on what you actually need help with, if the role can even be done remotely, and how much it’s going to cost to hire for this position.

Here are some key questions to think through:

  1. What will this person be doing on a daily basis?
  2. Is it practical for them to do this role remotely?
  3. Who will this person work closely with?
  4. What does success look like in this role?
  5. What’s your budget?
  6. Where will your budget match or exceed the market salary range for this position? For example, if you only have $50,000 and need an experienced software engineer, you aren’t going to find someone in the Bay Area. However, you might be able to find an awesome candidate if you target talent in Eastern Europe.

2. Write a Compelling Job Ad

Once you build out a job description, translate it into a compelling job ad. This is where many remote hiring efforts fall short. They post a basic job ad and assume people will start applying en masse. Sometimes that can be enough, but if you want to get A players to apply, your job ad must clearly communicate why people should work for your company.

Hiring remotely means you aren’t just communicating with candidates in your city; you’re communicating with candidates all over the world. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. You have a larger talent pool to draw from, but top applicants also have more opportunities to consider. Because the best remote candidates will likely have multiple offers, you need to give them a compelling reason to choose yours. Use your job ad and the interview process to convey that reason.

Here are some things you should include in your job ad:

  1. Talk about your company’s mission, values, and goals.
  2. Explain how this role fits into the overall mission of the company.
  3. Share details about the job’s responsibilities.
  4. Describe key soft skills and intangibles your dream candidate should have.
  5. Talk about opportunities to learn and advance in the company.
  6. Sell the benefits and perks of working at your company.

3. Systemize Your Hiring Process

At JotForm, we have more than 250 employees. We couldn’t hire new team members effectively if we didn’t have systems and procedures in place to streamline this process.

When we began hiring remotely, we used our own product to build a custom applicant tracking system (ATS). This allows us to store all of the applications in our workspace, where we review and track candidates throughout the process using advanced search filtering, custom columns and tags, and more.

We created an online application form that automatically sends entries to our ATS, so there’s no need for manual data entry or third-party integrations. Then, we review the candidates (more on this below) and create a short list of top contenders, whom we invite to a videoconference interview.

By using this system, we’re able to spend less time managing hundreds of applications and more time getting to know the top candidates.

4. Create an Efficient Candidate Screening Process

When you hire remotely, you’re going to get a lot more applications than you would for an in-person hire. Anything you can do to create a more efficient candidate screening process will pay off in spades.

We send an online questionnaire to any candidate who looks like they might be a good fit based on their resume and cover letter. As with the original application, the answers to this questionnaire go directly to our ATS. This replaces the initial phone screen. It allows the candidate to share more details about their experience and why they want to work with us. The candidate can also ask their own questions about the position and our company. We, in turn, can learn more about their skills and experience, as well as ensure their salary expectations are in line with our budget.

We then review all of the questionnaires and schedule a Google Meet video call with the top candidates.

5. Leverage Software to Automate Repetitive Tasks

Another way to streamline the remote hiring process is to use automation software. For example, one of the biggest time wasters is scheduling interviews. This is particularly difficult when you’re dealing with candidates in vastly different time zones. Instead of sending several back-and-forth emails trying to find a time that works for both of you, create a form that includes an appointment scheduling tool in which your available times are already marked. This allows a candidate to book a time that works for them and you.

In addition, you can use Zapier to automatically create a new Zoom meeting link once the candidate books a time. The Zoom link will be added directly to the calendar invitation.

6. Beware of Red Flags

As you gain more experience interviewing and hiring candidates remotely, you’ll get better at spotting red flags earlier in this process. One thing that can be helpful is to hold video interviews instead of phone interviews. Here are some red flags to pay attention to on video interviews:

  1. Unprofessional video call background. This is fairly self-explanatory. If the candidate is taking their call while lying in bed, this is a red flag.
  2. Lots of background noise. Are you struggling to hear the candidate over dogs barking, a baby crying, or other distracting noises? Most candidates are going to be on their best behavior during an interview. If they can’t find 30 minutes of quiet time for this call, what makes you think they will be able to find the quiet time they’ll need to do the work you hire them for?
  3. Candidate asks no questions during the interview. If the candidate doesn’t ask any questions during the interview or only asks questions about salary and vacation days, this is a sign they’re looking for any job, not the job at your company.
  4. Candidate logs into the interview late. If they log in late or don’t show up at all, this is problematic, for obvious reasons.

7. Take Your Time

Finally, the old adage “Hire slow and fire faster” couldn’t be more apt for hiring remote employees. If you are new to remote hiring, it can be a big adjustment. You’re going to hire someone you haven’t even met in person to work for your company. The more time you spend getting to know candidates, the more likely it is that you’ll choose a great fit.

In addition to interviewing candidates over video calls, you may also want to have candidates complete test projects. This allows you to see what it would be like to work with them. For example, you can see how they think through a problem and how they respond to constructive feedback.

Hiring remote employees has a ton of advantages. While there is no right or wrong way to hire remotely, the chances of getting it right increase if you build a robust hiring system.

Chad Reid is the vice president of marketing and communications at JotForm.

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